Live review: Lee 'Scratch' Perry at El Club Monday, May 15

by

comment
PHOTO BY TOMAS LAVERTY.
  • Photo by Tomas Laverty.

When the Subatomic Sound System begins to thump out the room, a few songs later, a gurgly, almost cartoonish voice emanates from the speakers. It’s clear that the voice is live, but it’s coming from somewhere not on stage. It’s a recognizable voice, with a touch more age and rust on it. It’s Lee Scratch Perry, toasting, somewhere backstage with a microphone.

PHOTO BY TOMAS LAVERTY.
  • Photo by Tomas Laverty.

He emerges two songs in wearing his hand-crafted suit of mis-matched elements, a hat bedazzled with sequins, buttons, other metal objects, a feather. On his shoes, two small mirrors. He holds the mic next to his mouth, and sticking out from his hand, several sticks on incense wafting into his face.
PHOTO BY TOMAS LAVERTY.
  • Photo by Tomas Laverty.
The living legend has always been rough around the edges, but at 81, his “Ras-tafar-I!” refrain is even more croaky and indistinct. Legendary percussionist Larry McDonald (of 1970s Black Ark fame) does a lot in tempering Perry’s loose lyricism and helps to frame the classic Rasta against Brooklyn-based Subatomic Sound System. The product is remarkably close to Perry’s original feel, but with Augustus Pablo-esque diversions with Subatomic main guy John Emch’s melodica bursts.



PHOTO BY TOMAS LAVERTY.
  • Photo by Tomas Laverty.

El Club can handle the dub, but some members of the audience can’t. There’s no way to really measure the effect serious bass has on the body besides watching the weak-hearted make their way to the back of the room. This happens.


Reggae is not just music; reggae is a way of life. It is a patient and pertinent form of meditation that only the devotee can understand. It’s the kind of thing that, well, if it bores you, then you’re probably boring. Reggae and dub reminds us that not everything should be clear as the light of day. Reggae isn’t so much about the notes themselves, but the spaces between those notes. That’s where the good stuff lives. Lee Scratch Perry found this out a long time ago, and hopefully for a while longer he will keep reminding us.



PHOTO BY TOMAS LAVERTY.
  • Photo by Tomas Laverty.

Tags

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.